COVID-19 diagnoses are surging across the country due to the much more contagious omicron variant of the virus.
Some of those new positive cases are being seen in people who are not only fully vaccinated, but who have also had a booster shot of one of the mRNA vaccines.
So, what do you do if you get the virus after you have been vaccinated? How does that happen?
Here is what we know now:
Why are people getting COVID-19 infections after having been fully vaccinated?
An infection of a fully vaccinated person is referred to as a “vaccine breakthrough infection.”
Vaccines are not 100% effective at preventing disease, so some people who are fully vaccinated will still contract the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains it this way: Vaccines help develop immunity by imitating an infection. That type of infection causes the immune system to produce disease-fighting T-lymphocytes and antibodies.
“Once the imitation infection goes away, the body is left with a supply of ‘memory’ T-lymphocytes, as well as B-lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that disease in the future,” the CDC explains.
It takes up to a few weeks for the body to produce T-lymphocytes and B-lymphocytes after vaccination, so it is possible that a person infected with a disease just before or just after vaccination could develop symptoms and get a disease, because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.”
However, if your breakthrough COVID-19 infection comes much later after a vaccination, it is likely because of one of two reasons — waning protection from a vaccine, or a variant of the virus that has changed enough to evade some of the vaccine’s protection.
A Danish study published last week showed the omicron variant is better than the delta variant at evading vaccinated peoples’ immunity. Researchers believe this is the reason omicron is spreading so rapidly.
The report showed that omicron was 2.7 to 3.7 times more infectious than the delta variant among the 12,000 vaccinated Danes observed in the study.
Who should get tested?
If you are vaccinated, chances are if you get the omicron variant of the virus, you will have mild to moderate symptoms or maybe no symptoms at all.
You are likely to have a sore throat, a cough and a low fever. Some people have more of an upper respiratory issue — a stuffy nose and sneezing.
If you are not vaccinated, it’s likely you will have more severe symptoms such as trouble breathing and being so short of breath you cannot finish a sentence. In addition, you’ll probably lose your sense of taste and smell, have muscle aches and a fever.
Vaccinated or not, if you have those symptoms, you should be tested for the coronavirus.
You can do that with an at-home test if you can find one. That’s tough right now. Or you can go to a local site that will test for the virus.
You may be able to find a testing site here. If you are having severe symptoms, go to a hospital.
What should I do if I test positive for the coronavirus?
If you have tested positive with a home self-test, you should talk to your doctor if your test shows you have COVID-19.
Next, talk to anyone you have been around within the last five to seven days and let them know you are positive for the virus.
Next, you should follow the CDC’s guidelines for those who have tested positive:
· If you have tested positive for COVID-19 or have symptoms of it, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says you should isolate yourself from others for five days.
· If you are getting better after five days, you can leave isolation and should continue to wear a face mask for another five days.
· The agency said you do not need a negative COVID-19 test to end isolation but could get one if you want or if your business requires it to return to work.
If you get worse, such as having trouble breathing, having a temperature above 102 degrees or your lips begin to look blue (a sign of a lack of oxygen), go to the hospital. There are clinical treatments such as monoclonal antibodies that can help.
Don’t wait if your symptoms begin to go downhill — get to a doctor or an emergency room immediately.
Should you get a booster shot if you have had COVID-19? When should you get it?
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 before your booster, Dr. Jorge Luis Salinas, an assistant professor of medicine focusing on infectious diseases at Stanford University in California, told McClatchy News that you should go ahead and get a booster, but should probably wait until you feel better and your symptoms have resolved before getting it.
Dr. Angela Branche, an associate professor of infectious diseases and co-director of the Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, said vaccinated people who have a breakthrough infection could wait for a booster “for three to six months after they have recovered, though it would be safe to obtain a booster dose as early as two weeks after full resolution of symptoms.”
Branche said in a news release that you can wait because people who recently had a COVID-19 infection “are expected to have high levels of circulating antibodies that are likely to be broadly protective for several months.”
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